Celeste Ng's Little Fires Everywhere - Backlist Excellence
by Sara Voigt (@meaningfulmadness)
Are you looking for some great backlist reading? Well, do I have a suggestion for you. I read Celeste Ng's Little Fires Everywhere a while ago, and thought it was amazing. More recently, I watched the limited series on Hulu. I enjoyed the series, but there is no standing in for Ng's words on the page.
First, Ng's masterful writing is truly something to behold. She has the ability to capture a feeling in words that I just haven't found in a lot of the books I have read.
Second, I love the way Ng writes Elena and Mia, the women who are the focal point of this story. Two characters who I, at first glance, thought were very different, actually are more similar than I thought possible. That being said, they have very different approaches to their children and to the situations that arise during the course of the narrative.
Third, the way Ng unfolds the narrative is at times disorienting, but ultimately works. I enjoyed the stories that occur in the present, but I found the way Ng intertwined Mia and Elena's back stories to be the truly compelling piece for me. These women are not without their flaws, and at times I found them both completely repugnant, but at others I completely empathized with them. In less skilled hands, Mia and Elena could have become stereotypes for women hailing from different socioeconomic classes, but that is not the case here.
Lastly, I realize it is a narrative choice for an author to not wrap up loose ends upon the conclusion of a book. And, I do appreciate and respect that choice. But, selfishly, there were a couple of plot points I wanted a bit more fleshed out at the end.
Before I conclude this review, there is a particular paragraph that stands out to me, even now after I have finished this novel and I feel I would be remiss not to mention it. Ng writes when referring to Elena,
"All her life, she had learned that passion, like fire, was a dangerous thing. It so easily went out of control. It scaled walls and jumped over trenches. Sparks leapt like fleas and spread as rapidly; a breeze could carry embers for miles. Better to control that spark and pass it carefully from one generation to the next, like an Olympic torch. Or, perhaps, to tend it carefully like an eternal flame: a reminder of light and goodness that would never--could never--set anything ablaze. Carefully controlled. Domesticated. Happy in captivity. The key, she thought, was to avoid conflagration."
How beautiful is this selection? I just cannot get it out of my head. There were so many times while I was reading this that I had to take a moment and close my eyes and think about the writing. That is how good it is.
Little Fires Everywhere is Ng's second novel and was published in September of 2017. Her first novel Everything I Never Told You was published in May of 2015 and comes with high praise as well. I haven't read her debut, but I can assure you, it has been moved to the top of my list.
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